Receptiveness and Responsiveness Toward Using Social Media for Safe Firearm Storage Outreach: Mixed Methods Study

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Jun 18;23(6):e24458. doi: 10.2196/24458.


Background: Childhood and adolescent firearm injury and death rates have increased over the past decade and remain major public health concerns in the United States. Safe firearm storage has proven to be an effective measure to prevent firearm injury and death among youth. Social media has been used as an avenue to promote safe firearm storage, but perceptions of this tool remain unknown.

Objective: The aim of this study was to determine receptiveness and responsiveness in promoting firearm lock box and trigger lock giveaway events on social media, and to describe the characteristics of participants who learned of these events through social media.

Methods: We performed a mixed methods study combining a content analysis of Facebook event post comments, quantitative analysis of positive and negative feedback on social media, and a descriptive analysis of event participant characteristics. Through a qualitative content analysis approach, we thematically coded comments from each event's social media page posting. Interrater reliability and κ statistics were calculated. We calculated the prevalence of positive and negative feedback data. Further, we calculated descriptive statistics for demographic characteristics gathered from day-of-event intake surveys. Differences between collected measures were analyzed with χ2 and t tests according to how the participant found out about the event (social media vs other means). Using concurrent analysis, we synthesized the results from both the qualitative and quantitative aims.

Results: Through qualitative content analysis, 414 comments from 13 events were coded. Seven themes emerged through the comment coding process with the most common being "positive receptiveness" (294/414, 71.0%). From quantitative analysis of the social media content, we found higher levels of positive feedback compared to negative feedback. The average number of event post "likes" was 1271.3 per event, whereas the average count in which "hide post" was clicked was 72.3 times per event. Overall, 35.9% (1457/4054) of participants found out about the event through social media. The participants who learned about the event through social media were on average significantly younger than those who learned about the event through other means (-6.4 years, 95% CI -5.5 to -7.3). Among the group that learned of the event through social media, 43.9% (629/1433) identified as female, whereas 35.5% (860/2420) identified as female among the group that learned of the event through other means.

Conclusions: There was overall positive receptiveness and responsiveness toward firearm lock box and trigger lock giveaway events when promoted on social media. Compared with other promotional tools, social media has the ability to reach those who are younger and those who identify as female. Future studies should extend this research to determine whether there is a difference between rural and urban settings, and consider other social media platforms in the analysis.

Keywords: family; firearm storage; gun safety; mixed methods; public health outreach; social media.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Public Health
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Social Media*
  • United States
  • Wounds, Gunshot*